Published in IN Community Magazines – Moon Township Winter 2016
PITTSBURGH – Grace Howard, a sixth grade student at South Fayette Middle School, hopes to compete at the 2024 summer Olympics.
Grace has already started on her path to the Olympics by winning her third medal at the Junior Olympics in Sacramento in July. More than 7,500 youngsters from across the country competed in a variety of events. Grace won sixth place in the high jump competition for girls age 11-12 with a jump of 4 feet, 11 inches. She says she excels at the high jump because she 5 feet, 3 inches tall and has long legs.
“It’s almost like you are floating in the air,” Grace says.
She was nervous before she competed but used tips from her coaches to take her mind off of the task at hand. Grace likes cupcakes, so she pretends there is a cupcake tree over the bar.
“If you don’t think about it too hard, it comes more naturally,” Grace says. “My coaches are a big part of this, because without them I wouldn’t have gone to the Junior Olympics in the first place.”
Grace hoped to do better in the high jump event because she tied for second place at the 2014 Junior Olympics. She also won sixth place in 2015.
“After I thought about it, I realized that a lot of people would have been happy to take my sixth place spot,” Grace says. “I will definitely be back next year.”
Grace qualified for the 200-meter sprint but decided to focus on the hurdles and high jump instead. She also competed in the 80 meter hurdles and achieved a personal record of 14.52 seconds.
“Running with the wind blowing in your face is really fun,” Grace says.
She was inspired by watching the 2016 Olympics on television after returning home from Sacramento. Allyson Felix is Grace’s favorite runner and she won gold in the women’s 4×100 and 4×400 meter relays and silver in the women’s 400-meter sprint.
“She’s very relaxed when she runs, and her reaction at the start is very good,” Grace says. “She smiles at the end too, which is very nice.”
Felix ran from lane four which is now Grace’s favorite starting position. Grace says she wants to improve her reaction time because she noticed many other runners at the Junior Olympics hesitated when the starting shot was fired.
“My goal is to be the first one out of the blocks,” Grace says.
Grace started running when she was six years old. She was living in Texas as the time and she beat older boys in the neighborhood in several races.
“It was the first clue she had a natural running ability,” says her mother Yvette.
Grace runs on the Wings of Moon team. Her mother says she will support her dream to compete in the Olympics but says her daughter will have to put in a lot of hard work and make sacrifices. However, she says she won’t pressure her daughter to aim for the Olympics either.
“We will support her in the sport she loves and excels at,” Yvette said. “The future is the future.”